Thursday, 13 March 2008

Civil Serf Fallout

I see that buttock clenching terror now stalks the corridors of power in the wake of the Civil Serf fiasco. Of course, we all knew that the Powers That Be were never going to allow rank and file civil servants to make them look fools - they probably don't want or need the competition - and recently proposed "guidelines" show exactly how terrified Ministers really are.

According to 24dash, Cabinet Office Minister Tom Watson, writing on his own blog, suggested a draft "code" for Civil Service bloggers, including "Be nice", "write as yourself", "keep secrets" and "think about consequences." That's particularly worrying in view of his further comment that Whitehall bloggers are also under an obligation to "stop it if we say so". He doesn't say if that's the point at which they have to start thinking about consequences, but it sounds like a veiled threat to me!

Let's just put all of that into context - they want to know who the bloggers are so they can be sure to impose consequences on those who don't keep secrets, and won't stop blowing the whistle when they're told to. Nice. Can't help wondering if such restrictions apply to Mr Watson himself, though, and, indeed, to such nonsense as Number 10's YouTube channel, which amounts to the biggest load of propaganda I've seen in quite some time.

Broadly, upstairs are in such a pathetic mess that they daren't let anyone speak out lest yet more bad news should Velcro itself to Gordon Brown-Trousers. There is no real need for a "blogging code" for Civil Service bloggers, because the common sense eventualities are covered by the Civil Service's own code of conduct and, where appropriate, the Official Secrets Act.

All that lies behind this initiative is an effort to save the blushes of yet more worthless Mandarins, Ministers and Labour Party big wigs. And it will probably work, too, for a while - after all, in these times of serious economic uncertainty, many folks wouldn't be willing to risk their cushy Civil Service jobs to speak out against the all powerful state, would they?

But, in the long run, it won't make much difference - somebody, somewhere, will take the opportunity to drop their boss in the crap, just because they can. And the code takes no account of bloggers who don't work in the Civil Service but know people who do. Information leaks - over a pint, over the garden fence, in all sorts of ways - and there's practically no way the terrified wastes of space in Whitehall can control that.

The truth will out, and the truth is that we'd all be a lot better off without the current Government.

Billy Seggars.

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